Greetings from my holiday in Holland where it is raining relentlessly. I’m used to spending my holidays in Holland in the rain but this year there is the vague consolation that I would be equally as wet and cold in London. As indeed I was on Friday when I went to see Gatz with my friend Julia. Gatz lasts about eight hours and is the entire text of The Great Gatsby read aloud with no deletions or additions. The set up is that an office worker can’t work his computer so starts reading a book instead and gradually his co-workers join in. There are four intervals and during every single one I overheard a snippet of Fifty Shades of Grey conversation. Old, young, male, female, black and white were all talking about a book in an interval at the theatre. During the final interval, Julia and I stood on the balcony looking out at the rain discussing what other books might enjoy a Gatz treatment. As ever, I wanted to introduce food and drink into the process and was imagining a version of Brideshead Revisited where the audience get to get to taste the strawberries and drink the champagne. The bit of me that secretly longs to go on murder weekends at country house hotels was writing ever larger audience participation into the process. But, as I suddenly realised, I didn’t really want to go and see another eight hour play. I’d wanted to see Gatz because it was there, in the same way that I wanted to read Fifty Shades of Grey because it was there. I admire and am curious about the unexpected, about things that jump through hoops of cynicism to thrive in the real and wide world. Imagine the legions of people that must have said about both these projects, ‘well, that will never work.’ I’m not grudging the nay sayers their opinions, I’m just loving the fact that the people involved just carried on driving through and achieved success.
So, going to another eight hour play and reading another erotic trilogy are not on my list of things to do. (Not knowing much about theatre, I’m not sure how likely it is that more eight hour plays will follow, but we’ll be drowning in erotic trilogies in book land for some time to come.) What I am interested in in what is the next thing will be that, like a goldfish flinging itself out of its bowl, will take a leap of faith and end up, not gasping for breath on the carpet but swimming in faster, fresher waters. Because it excites me. Because it makes a change from reading ‘Death of the book’ articles. Because it shows that it can be done.
And that’s what I really love about Fifty Shades. If a few months ago someone had said that there would be a book that would break all previous records no one would have believed it.
And in case you’re wondering what Fifty Shades looks like in Dutch…